Infertility is sometimes caused by internal damage to the reproductive organs. Many women experience problems with their ovaries or uterus and, as a result, have difficulties conceiving. Fallopian tube damage is one of the most common causes of female infertility. If your fallopian tubes become damaged, it can make it very hard for your egg to pass into your uterus. This can make conception difficult or even impossible. However, there are a number of methods used to test for fallopian tube damage and treatments to restore fertility.
What are the Fallopian Tubes?
The fallopian tubes are a pair of tubes found in every female mammal. These two tubes, sometimes referred to as the oviducts or uterine tubes, are found in the pelvic cavity, running between the uterus and the ovaries. Approximately three to four inches long, the fallopian tubes are not directly attached to the ovaries. Instead, the tubes open up into the peritonial (abdominal) cavity, very close to the ovaries.
What Do the Fallopian Tubes Do?
Your fallopian tubes play an integral role in ovulation and conception. Without your fallopian tubes, your egg cannot become fertiziled and an embryo cannot reach your uterus for implantation.
Once an egg has broken out of its follicle, it is released from the ovary. Using a set of finger-like projections, one of your fallopian tubes grabs hold of the egg. Once the egg has been pushed inside the tube, tiny hairs help to sweep the egg along, until it reaches the uterus.
Your partner's sperm will fertilize your egg inside of your fallopian tubes. At this point the egg and sperm become an embryo. This embryo continues to be guided through your fallopian tube until it reaches the uterus for implantation. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Your fallopian tube contains a special lining to make sure that the embryo stays healthy during its trip.
The Fallopian Tubes and Infertility
Your fallopian tubes are an integral part of your reproductive system. Without properly-functioning fallopian tubes, it can be very difficult to become pregnant. Many women who are facing fertility issues may actually have some sort of fallopian tube dysfunction. In fact, tubal factor infertility accounts for almost 25% of all fertility clinic cases.
Complications Associated with Fallopian Tubes
There are a number of different problems that can develop with the fallopian tubes. These complications include:
- tubal blockage
- tubal scarring
Tubal blockage is by far one of the most common fallopian tube complications. Sometimes, one or both tubes become narrow or blocked, preventing eggs from travelling through to the uterus. This can make conception impossible. Tubal scarring can also affect the route that the egg takes through the fallopian tubes.
Causes of Fallopian Tube Damage
Unfortunately, fallopian tube damage is relatively common. It is typically caused by:
- PID, pelvic inflammatory disease
- ectopic pregnancy
Diagnosing Tubal Factor Infertility
In order to determine the cause of your infertility, your reproductive endocrinologist may perform a series of tests in analyzing your fallopian tubes. Common tests include:
- Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): A hysterosalpingogram is a type of x-ray used to determine if your tubes are blocked. Dye is injected into your uterus and through your fallopian tubes.
- Laparoscopic Surgery: Laparoscopic surgery is sometimes performed in order to diagnose tubal factor infertility. Laparoscopic surgery involves making a small incision in the abdomen. A small camera is then inserted into this incision, allowing your surgeon to view your fallopian tubes.
Treating Tubal Factor Infertility
Tubal factor infertility can be treated through surgery or ART. Your health care provider or reproductive endocrinologist can discuss your best options.
Invitro Fertilization (IVF):
IVF is recommended for many women who are suffering from tubal factor infertility. IVF involves fertilizing an egg outside of the fallopian tubes and then implanting the embryo inside the uterus. Pregnancy rates do vary, but IVF can cause pregnancy in up to 35% of couples.
Fallopian Tube Surgery
Sometimes, surgery can be performed to correct damage to the fallopian tubes. Surgery to remove adhesions, scar tissue, and fallopian tube blockage is available, although subsequent pregnancy rates do vary.